Ryanair, libel and Miss World

The 10th Annual Irish Film & TV Awards underwayRyanair has embarked on a litigation spree after a Channel 4 documentary made allegations about its practices. The airline is to sue the television station Associated Newspapers, Mirror Group newspapers and one of the pilots interviewed for the programme, who has already been fired by the Irish firm for contributing to the programme. There were reportedly plans to sue the Belfast Telegraph as well, but then graciously accepted an apology from that paper.

The main point in contention is the claim that Ryanair planes carry very low amounts of fuel. In a statement following the Belfast Telegraph’s apology, Ryanair’s Head of Communications Robin Kiely said:

We welcome the Belfast Telegraph’s apology and its acceptance that Ryanair’s pilots are free to carry as much fuel as they wish, that Ryanair fully complies with EU fuel regulation, and the IAA’s confirmation that Ryanair’s safety is “on a par with the safest airlines in Europe”.

Ryanair has sought the services of Belfast solicitor Paul Tweed in the upcoming cases. Probably a wise move – Tweed claims to have “never lost a case”.

And Ryanair, of all people, could back up this claim. In 2011, Tweed represented Rosanna Davison [pictured], a former Miss World and daughter of single-browed singer Chris de Burgh in a defamation case against the airline.

Davison had criticised Ryanair’s already controversial “charity” pin-up cheesecake calendars, featuring female air stewards in various states of undress, for not featuring any Irish models. The airline responded a little strongly, saying Davison’s comments “bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair’s international cabin crew.” The model engaged lawyer to the stars Tweed, sued for defamation and won E80,000 in compensation and damages. In engaging Tweed this time round, Ryanair have clearly learned their lesson.

Mr Tweed has the distinction of practising in Dublin, Belfast and London, a fact he regularly points out while bemoaning moves for libel reform in England and Wales. Perhaps, if Stormont fails to pass the law reform fought so hard for on this side of the Irish Sea, the budget airlines’ planes will be packed with celebrities, oligarchs and quacks looking to take advantage of Mr Tweed’s services in Belfast’s and Dublin’s more claimant-friendly courts.